BOISE • Supporters of a statewide effort seeking to amend Idaho’s campaign finance laws have collected roughly 79,000 signatures with the hopes of getting their initiative on the November ballot.
Holli Woodings, a Boise Democrat chairing the Keep Idaho Elections Accountable campaign, said that her group sent the last batch of signatures to be verified by county clerks on Monday.
“I am hoping this initiative will give a voice to the people,” said Woodings, a former state representative who unsuccessfully ran for secretary of state in 2014.
The group’s initiative would make significant changes to Idaho’s Sunshine Law, passed by overwhelming popular vote in 1974. It set many of the rules used today to govern campaign contributions and lobbyist activity disclosure.
If approved, the initiative would:
- Ban lobbyists from giving elected officials gifts — which include meals, transportation and lodging — valued at $50. Currently, lawmakers can accept gifts valued at any amount from lobbyists.
- Prohibit companies bidding or fulfilling state contracts larger than $250,000 from donating to state officials. This includes companies’ lobbyists and executives.
- Reduce campaign-contribution limits for statewide candidates from $5,000 to $2,000 and legislative candidates from $1,000 to $500.
- Create a one-year waiting period before a public official can take a paid lobbying position. Violations would bring a felony penalty.
- Enforce stricter penalties against those who break campaign finance laws and ensure that campaign finance reports be provided online in a searchable format.
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“There’s been a lot of talk about donors buying campaigns,” Woodings said. “It sucks to be on the phone asking for money, but it gives you perspective on what a lot of people want. Not just one small group.”
Woodings said her group is funded by both Idahoans and national groups. The group’s full campaign finance reports won’t be available until seven days before the May 17 primary election.
Statewide ballot initiatives must have signatures from 6 percent of the total of those who voted in the last presidential election from 18 out of Idaho’s 35 legislative districts. That means Woodings’ group must have at least 48,000 signatures to make it on the November ballot.
County clerks have until June 30 to verify the signatures.
“It’s now a waiting game to see if we actually made it,” Woodings said.
However, getting the initiative on the ballot is just half the battle. Since 1974, Idaho voters have approved just half of the 24 proposed statewide ballot initiatives and referendums.